Showroom’s stage programme curator Tuuli Sotamaa selects speakers without compromising

By Mirva Sjöroos     21. June 2016

© Kimmo Syväri

We met with designer Tuuli Sotamaa who is known for her uncompromising work within the design field. She seeks for inspiration in the deer that graze her year and in Japanese details. Currently she is curating impressive speakers for the Showroom programme.

Tuuli Sotamaa is known to be a versatile designer.

She shares design agency Ateljé Sotamaa with her brother Kivi Sotamaa, the recent projects of which include Finnjävel restaurant.

Besides her design projects, she has organised more than fifty events related to design, architecture and creative fields in Finland and abroad, and she has assembled seminars and curated exhibitions, such as the Design Colours Life ensemble for the Shanghai museum of modern art.

In September, her handprint will show in the new Showroom for design professionals organised jointly by Helsinki Design Week and Habitare. This professionals’ event for design, spatial design, and lighting is organised from 7 to 9 September.

Interviewed by Helsinki Design Weekly, Sotamaa tells about her sources of inspiration and the stories behind the chosen speakers.

Showroom features over 100-year-old original backdrops from plays staged at the Finnish National Theatre. © Kansallisteatteri

Everything is art

Sotamaa is known to be a versatile designer. Besides her design projects, she has organised more than fifty events related to design, architecture and creative fields in Finland and abroad, and she has assembled seminars and curated exhibitions, such as the Design Colours Life ensemble for the Shanghai museum of modern art.

She shares design agency Ateljé Sotamaa with her brother Kivi Sotamaa, the recent projects of which include Finnjävel restaurant.

The Sotamaa siblings grew up in an environment full of design and experimental art. Their father Yrjö Sotamaa was the headmaster of the University of Art and Design in Helsinki from 1986 to 2008.

“Design has been appreciated throughout our lives. We lived in an experimental house built in the 1970s that was full of design, art, sculptures and what not,” says Sotamaa.

“This may be the reason why we don’t make a difference between design, architecture and art. We consider that everything is art,” he explains.

In addition to art, inspiration comes from realisations. Sotamaa lives next to a huge field where she can watch deer, elks, hares, and the cycle of the seasons.

“Every day I get excited about the changing landscape outside my home. I try to keep my eyes open all the time to see and hear as much as possible.”

She is looking for experiences in different environments, architecture, and for example, the Japanese ability to attend to the finest details. Knowledge and learning new things, and perhaps most of all people, are inspiring to Sotamaa.

“It is fascinating to listen to people. A mathematician may take my thoughts to a completely different sphere from where I gain plenty of energy.

ALA Architects are responsible for the exhibition architecture. © ALA Arkkitehdit

Encounters full of energy

Accordingly, Showroom’s guest list is based on learning new and challenging conventional thinking. Among other idea, programme theme ‘Different thus Better’ has to do with future homes, material innovations, leadership, money, and the power of storytelling.

Working as a curator Sotamaa has been motivated to bring interesting people to Finland and developing discussion about design. She has selected the kind of people who have impressed her with their work or words.

“They all share an attitude of making, enormous passion and uncompromising quality – no matter what field they’re in,” Sotamaa says.

She invites different personalities to attend, hoping for something meaningful to ignite when these people meet.

“I’m looking forward to the encounter of designer Fredrik Magnusson and Saas Instrument’s Håkan Långstedt. After one of my seminars attended by Iittala people, Fredrik became the design director of Iittala. They were all over Fredrik after the panel discussion. They must have had a few discussions in between,” Sotamaa laughs.

She calls Magnusson a machine of ideas that always challenges both the audience and other speakers to gain new ideas through discussion. Långstedt receives the following description:

“The crazier the idea, the more likely he is to go for it! It is also interesting to discuss with him how to encourage customers to use customised solutions and to believe in creating atmosphere.”

Tremendous, unbelievable, mystical, and imaginary – these are adjectives Sotamaa uses for Icelandic designer Katrín Ólína who has created a new language of technological mythology and impressed Sotamaa greatly with her storytelling and very exceptionally structured speeches.

“Ólina currently spends plenty of time in Finland. Her way of working is completely different compared to typical Finnish way of thinking and working. She demonstrates the significance of storytelling and how it goes hand in hand with design.”

Other speakers include Spanish designer Martí Guixé who influences behaviour patterns with design; Innojoki founder Jukka Jokiniemi who believes in the significance of multisensory experiences; Ville Hyvönen who makes aerial drone movies all over the world; Hungarian interdisciplinary photographer, fashion artist, and strategic director Lili Zoe Ermezei; and founder of the Löyly sauna experience in the Hernesaari island of Helsinki, Antero Vartia.

In addition, creativity is handled through food, as we hear from Henri Alén, the chef that turned the Finnish mindscape into a restaurant, and pastry chef Eero Paulaniemi, who makes art from sugar and chocolate.

“I watched Eero sculpt chocolate. He’s an amazing artist,” Sotamaa praises.

Nano-cellulose is one of the new materials presented. Specialists of different fields get up on the stage and use it to innovate new products for the future. 

“The biggest question of the Showroom is how to create phenomena and development that really makes a difference for the humankind and the society. This is my point of greatest interest at the moment,” Sotamaa concludes.

ALA Architects are responsible for the exhibition architecture, and discussion panels are moderated by entrepreneur and design specialist Katja Lindroos.

The Showroom is organised at Habitare from 7 to 9 September 2016.

www.showroomfair.com

Topics
Habitare2016
Helsinki Design Week 2016
Showroom

Mirva Sjöroos is an art historian, journalist and design enthustiastic living in Helsinki. Her articles have been published in several magazines, including Helsinki University Bulletin, Ornamo Magazine and Mustekala Magazine.